Last week, we marvelled at the difference that one week made as we celebrated the Resurrection of Jesus Christ…the completion of His victory over sin for our share in eternity. This Sunday finds us conclusing the Easter Octave, the eight-day period beginning on Easter Day and ending on the Second Sunday of Easter (this Sunday) and it has been an emotional time…that is, from the perspective of the Revised Common Lectionary’s Holy Eucharist readings during the period. During this octave, we make an emotional journey with the apostles in the aftermath of the Resurrection. As it turns out, we have spent these past days contemplating the difference that one week can make. Let’s retrace our steps, shall we?
What a week!
On Easter Day, there was bewilderment and confusion as the followers of Jesus struggled to wrestle themselves from the anguish of Good Friday to the indescribable and unbelievable joy of the miracle of the Resurrection. Monday’s readings set a mood of dazed acceptance of the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies. Transitioning from the amazement or perhaps emboldened by the Resurrection, Tuesday’s readings saw the apostles, Peter in particular, evangelising and defending the name of Jesus Christ. Wednesday saw further growth as the apostles stepped into the power passed onto them to perform works of wonder. Perhaps, more notably was the power that had come through their faith, the faith that also allowed them to defend the name of Jesus. Coupled with their increasing faith and the accompanying power was a growing acceptance of the people of the Messiah. That acceptance saw them asking what they must do to become a part of the family of Christ. In the face of such an acceptance, through Thursday’s readings, the people were called to repentance. Within short time, the increasing acceptance of the people, the popularity of the apostles and the growing intensity of the message of the Messiah would convert the apostles into the persecuted. While this is happening, the apostles are preparing to be physically separated from Jesus who, Himself, is preparing to return to His Father. Part of this preparation sees the apostles experience an increase in their discernment as they readily recognise Jesus when He came to them as they were fishing one morning. Saturday is a day of commitment, obedience and accepting the enduring presence of Christ, notwithstanding His physical separation from the disciples. The Easter Octave ends this Sunday with increased fervour to share the Gospel, discernment, and confidence in the redeeming works of the Lord and the guiding hand of God. Indeed, it’s been quite a week.
Now, the Lectionary during the Octave is not intended to reflect a chronological sequence in the first week after Jesus’ Resurrection, rather, it focuses on the spiritual journey that was triggered by the Resurrection. It focuses on the power of the Resurrection in the lives of the apostles. If I had to sum it all up, I would say that this week has been a journey in renewed and revitalised faith. This week’s Collect, the Collect for the Second Sunday of Easter, points us in that direction:
‘Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith […]’Collect – Second Sunday of Easter
The Resurrection and Faith
This week has shown us that faith propels us in our Christian duty of evangelisation and in the ministry of reconciliation – bringing us back into agreement with God. It begins a little shaky, but, by the sustaining power of the Holy Spirit, it grows into more than we could ever dream of or imagine. We have only to examine the transformation in Peter who, in the wee hours of Good Friday, denied that he was a disciple of Christ, yet, after the Resurrection, stridently defended Christ. It turns out, the Resurrection unlocked Peter’s faith. The Resurrection unlocks our faith as well.
Several months ago, I shared a message entitled ‘Faith’. That message explained what faith required of us. This week’s complementary message explores what we tap into through faith. This week’s message confirms that our greatness is our faith. It is this faith which paves the path towards purpose. For, if through faith we have hope, in that hope, we persevere and if we persevere, we choose to continue walking towards God, a walk that reconciles us to the Father. And, if we are reconciled to the Father, then we fulfil our purpose which is to complete the will of the Father. And, as Scripture assures us, it is the will of the Father that none would be lost, but that all would be reconciled to Him through the redeeming blood of the Son.
Beloveds, may I share a secret with you? The devil knows this, so you better believe it. The circumstances that we face – the health challenges, the loss of relationships to death, misunderstandings, denials and betrayals, the tests at work and in school, the financial challenges, the loss of employment, the racial and other forms of persecution – are all intended to distract us from the Resurrection Power of God. They are all designed to diminish our faith. They are all intended to cripple our faith for it is in faith that our greatness lies. In faith is our power.
Continue in Faith
Will you allow the enemy to win, or will you allow God to win? I encourage you to continue in faith. Continue to trust God. Continue to believe, even if at times you stumble. Let your general trajectory be towards an increasing faith in God. Each of our readings this Sunday draws us in that direction:
- Through the Lesson, Acts 2:14a, 22-32, we witness Peter pronouncing elements of the Apostles’ Creed by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Apostles’ Creed is the first of three Creeds that summarise our faith as Christians.
- Through the Response, Psalm 16, we sing a song of trust and confidence in God: ‘I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel; […] I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not fall’ (verses 7-8 according to the Psalter).
- In the Epistle, 1 Peter 1:3-9, Peter celebrates the living hope that we have been given through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (verse 3) and rejoices that we are being ‘protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time’ (verse 5).
- Finally, in the Gospel, John 20:19-31, we acknowledge that in our journey of faith, we experience moments of doubt or uncertainty, especially in the face of difficulties and challenges, and so, we have the example of Thomas who doubts. All the same, we thank God that God draws us from doubt into belief, so that we, like Thomas may rejoice, ‘My Lord and my God’ (verse 28). We thank God that we are blessed for though we have not seen, we have come to believe as we are assured in verse 29.
I, in confidence, therefore and following the example of Peter, say God has won the battle, God has prevailed for we know that our Father’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. I, like Peter, encourage you to continue in faith even in the face of persisting challenges for it is these very challenges that ‘God [intends] for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today’ to borrow from Joseph (cf. Genesis 50:20) who had been sold into slavery by his brothers and who, through this very betrayal, was given charge by Pharaoh over the land of Egypt.
Dear saints in Christ, I urge you not to be dismayed whatever betide for God is taking care of you. God has you in His hand, and ‘no one can snatch [you] out of the Father’s hand. (cf. John 10:28). Be encouraged by the Resurrection which confirms that God’s mercies endure forever. Dear ones, let your greatness be your faith.
Your greatness is your faith
In that faith lies the power to perform works that give honour and glory to God (noting that the power of God is limited in our lives only by our challenged faith). In that faith lies discernment to recognise God in our daily lives. In faith lies our drive to evangelise to a world that is broken and lost and offer them reconciliation with the Father through Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit. In that faith we have access to our eternal reward.
Dear ones, your greatness is your faith and, even if you have to pray, ‘Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!’, know that God’s right hand of righteousness will uphold you, just as Jesus did Thomas, the one who doubted.
Beloveds, let your greatness be your faith, for faith draws us in more deeply to the love of the Father, the peace of the Son, and the joy of the Spirit. Amen.
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